What is Addiction? - Hader Clinic Queensland
What Is Addiction?

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic brain disorder that causes repetitive harmful behaviours and an uncontrollable desire to keep engaging in these behaviours.

Addiction is most commonly associated with alcohol and drugs; however, the same principle applies to less well-publicised dependencies, such as gambling, sex, food, technology and even work addictions.

How does Addiction work?

The path to addiction usually follows four clearly defined stages:

Stage One – Experimentation
Very few people make it through life without ever experimenting with drugs and or alcohol. Teenage curiosity, peer pressure or simply a random opportunity to try something new most often lead to a person’s first experience with drugs. Experimentation does not necessarily lead to full-blown dependency.

Stage Two – Social or Regular Use
There are many casual drug and alcohol users, who only engage in these risky behaviours on weekends, parties or social get-togethers. The danger here is that we often gravitate toward social environments in which substance abuse is encouraged in order to avoid judgement.

Stage Three – Problematic or Risky Use
This stage occurs when the behaviours developed in Stage Two intensify and we lose regard for their consequences. Whether there are physical repercussions (i.e. vomiting, passing out, horrific hangovers), social repercussions (i.e. mistreating loved ones when drunk or high) or personal repercussions (i.e. engaging in dangerous activities, overspending); if they cease to matter, substance use has become problematic. At this stage, use becomes more frequent and no longer requires an ‘occasion’ or even company.

Stage Four – Dependency
At this stage, substance use occurs on a daily basis, often multiple times a day and is no longer within the user’s control. Drugs and/or alcohol are now a requirement to function and feel normal; and withdrawal is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. When a substance dependency occurs, the need to keep using will outweigh all other needs and responsibilities, regardless of personal cost and consequences.

This then continues into a cycle of addiction.

What are the Signs of Addiction?

Addiction changes people fundamentally. Addicts will display behaviours and engage in activities that can seem completely out of character and can seem quite alarming to their loved ones. It is important to recognise these signs for what they are – symptoms of a disease.

Persons experiencing addiction might

  • Isolate themselves from friends and family
  • Become increasingly secretive
  • Become overly defensive when the subject of substance abuse is raised
  • Display extreme emotions
  • Be subject to dramatic mood changes
  • Blame others for their problems
  • Refuse to acknowledge that their behaviour is becoming problematic

On a physical level, persons experiencing addiction might

  • Have trouble sleeping
  • Feel unwell (joint pain, runny nose, persistent cough) most of the time
  • Experience memory loss
  • Experience depression and anxiety at unprecedented levels

What Causes Addiction?

Unfortunately, drugs and/or alcohol and other addictive substances and/or behaviours will leave the user experiencing many pleasurable sensations in the early stages of use. Heavy drug users often describe their addiction as chasing their first high and never managing to recreate it. Continuous substance abuse impacts the brain until the user craves immediate gratification constantly, yet needs more and more of their substance of choice to feel an effect.

Addiction takes hold once the brain is depleted of natural ‘happy chemicals’ (i.e. endorphins, dopamine and adrenaline) and drugs and/or alcohol are the only way to feel good and function on a day to day basis. Quitting becomes very difficult as the withdrawal symptoms intensify and cravings become overwhelming; which is why it is vital to seek professional help for the detoxification and rehabilitation process.

What are the Risks of Addiction?

Addiction has a negative impact on all areas of life.

Health Risks
Substance abuse can irreparably damage a person’s health. Some of the biggest risks are infection with blood-borne viruses (BBV) through upsurges in impulsive, risk-taking behaviour, permanent neurological damage, heart disease, and damage to major organs.

Social Risks
Addiction affects personality changes, which can lead to damaged relationships, break-ups and estrangement from friends and family. Furthermore, addiction increases the risk of isolation and anti-social behaviours, with the potential to lead to loss of employment, or in some circumstances, periods of incarceration.

Economic Risks
Maintaining an addiction is expensive. People dealing with substance abuse disorders are at heightened risk of experiencing bankruptcy and ending up in debt.

Psychological & Emotional Risks
Depression, anxiety and increased stress are all classical side effects of addiction. Those with a history of mental health issues will see an exacerbation of these, leading to further deterioration of mental state, mood, and affect. Destructive behaviours and thoughts that often accompany substance dependence include self-harm and suicidal ideation.

If you or a loved one are showing signs of addiction, contact the Hader Clinic Queensland today.

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